Fundraising in Russia in 2022: How to attract donors in a time of crisis
Fundraising in 2022: How to attract donors during times of crisis
How to attract businesses, where to meet potential donors and why planning more than six months ahead is unrealistic. Anastasia Lozhkina, a fundraising adviser, answered these and other questions during a media club meeting.
53% of CSOs reported a drop in funds in spring this year
Anastasia explained that the number of corporate donations has been gradually decreasing since 2019 which is particularly evident at the moment. However, this does not mean that businesses are unwilling to support the non-profit sector. According to her, business increasingly wants to see CSOs as partners which means receiving something in return for the money companies provide.
Tell people about yourselves
When speaking to potential corporate donors, CSOs need to explain what social issue they seek to address. It is important to demonstrate that the problem actually exists, to present supporting evidence, statistics and how the results will be monitored.
One way that CSOs can “snare” a potential partner is to show how the problem is relevant to the interests of a company’s clients. However, complex topics should be presented with care.
“One corporate social responsibility manager at a large company who recently left his position told me: “I sometimes found it difficult hearing about children’s illnesses during my six-year tenure because I imagined my own child in their place and the thought scared me”. “Always remember there’s another person in the room with you”, said Anastasia.
CSOs also need to offer solutions to problems and not just highlight the issues involved. There does not necessarily have to be a plan to solve a global problem but rather to address one particular aspect of it.
Be aware of the risks involved
Identifying risks is particularly important for business partners these days, which means that CSOs need to be very specific when describing them. Personnel, information, reputational, organisational, financial and technological risks need to be assessed, so it is best for a CSO to have a Plan B in place to address each of them.
Anastasia also pointed out that many companies now plan their work three to six months ahead, so it is important that money provided is for the here and now and not for the “long term”.
The profile of a manager is also important, e.g. how well he/she has proven him/herself as a skilled administrator and the people they have worked with in the past. If he/she lacks management or business communication skills, now is the time to address this shortfall.
Understand how you can help
A CSO needs to become a partner if it wants to build a long-term business relationship which will help sustain and keep a team together. Anastasia explained that the main headaches felt by companies in recent times have been uncertain prospects, liquidity and payment issues, disrupted supply chains and the potential for bankruptcies. The main challenge, however, is creating a stable team. How to retain staff, keep them motivated and helping them cope with global changes are questions that are of concern to many managers.
CSOs have different approaches when it comes to staff morale such as arranging meetings with a psychologist for company employees, arranging team visits to dog shelters, or organising field trips for them.
“We don’t approach a company and ask for money, we go to offer our expertise and services. The skills we have acquired over 30 years working in the Russian non-profit sector are reflected in our principal assets, namely our staff and specialists”, said Anastasia.
Go back to basics and follow the news
Lozhkina said that businesses are just about surviving at present. Putting it simply: What does a company have to gain from donating money to CSOs? Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and Sustainable Development Goals are taking a back seat at the moment.
“Back in 2010-2011 we were teaching businesses all about systemic philanthropy. Communication should now focus on the benefits of engaging with the third sector”, said the expert.
CSOs need to speak the language of business in order to make communication easier. This can be done by visiting the business community, going to meetings with representatives from commercial companies, getting to know their directors and looking for theme-based fora and other relevant platforms.
According to Anastasia, it is worth concentrating on companies that operate in the agricultural, pharmaceutical, IT and retail sectors as they are the ones still maintaining profit levels. There is no point approaching a business that is making staff redundant.
Face-to-face meetings work best. Draw up a list of potential partner companies, gather background information on their directors and make contact with them. Prepare what you want to say in advance – you can meet a partner anywhere, from a local gym to an airport.
Be appreciative and don’t sell yourselves short
Another example of good business communication is to always thank companies for their support with joint projects. However, there are cases where companies offer help to CSOs as a “ticking the box” exercise. In such instances, Anastasia advises sending them a thank-you letter
anyway and not to shy away from highlighting in it the amount of the donation and how the money was used.
“Never forget just how important your organisation and work are. Don’t go to a company begging for money – you should approach them as a potential partner”, said Anastasia.
CSOs also have human assets such as volunteers and activists, all of whom can be business customers. Certain rules can be agreed that cover how much of a company’s donation can be made public on social media, or how much can be included in a newsletter etc. However, you will need to explain why your CSO is asking for a particular amount, how hard it is to recruit volunteers, how long it has taken to develop a project and how much time has been invested in creating a contents plan.